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How to Write an Annotated Bibliography: Tips for Students (with Examples)

February 21, 2020
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

If you ever wrote any research paper, you had to add the bibliography section to it. It is the list of all sources, printed or electronic, that you used during the research. 

At the same time, any student’s paper can be a source itself, and their bibliographies are priceless. It leads you in the right direction to search for the relevant information. And it would be excellent to get more data about each source at once. Here an annotated bibliography comes handy – it provides the info you need. 

Composing such a bibliography is a frequent assignment in colleges. You do it as a separate task or as a part of a complicated assignment. Hence, the WriteMyPaper4Me made this article with the annotated bibliography instructions for you to master the skills quickly. 

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

To understand what the annotated bibliography is, we need to get its components. We already know about the bibliographies. So, let’s proceed to ‘annotated.’

Annotation is a small piece about 150-200 words that sum up the contents of the source. But it is not a summary only, it includes comments, analysis, additional references, and so on. 

Adding the annotations to the bibliography, we get the extended ‘database’ of sources – what the source is about, and how useful it can be. 

You also should present more of your strong points when creating an annotated bibliography: 

  • Show how well you’ve absorbed the materials;
  • Demonstrate the in-depth understanding of the sources;
  • Train the skills of analyzing and organizing the data. 

What is the Difference Between Annotation and Citation?

The citation is the reference to the source of information that you used in your research. In the context of the annotated bibliography, it is one of the two-block components: 

  • The citation is the exact title of the source, correctly formatted;
  • The annotation is the summary and evaluation of that source. 

You can’t mix citations with annotations, and they both must be present. Without any of these elements, the correct annotated bibliography won’t exist. 

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What are the Key Features of an Annotated Bibliography?

If it is your task to make the annotated bibliography, note the features to include there: 

  1. Citation – the full ‘string’ of the source’s name;
  2. Introduction – a very brief description of the contents of that source; 
  3. Aims and methods of researches – you can get the information from the sources;
  4. Scope – the sphere where this source is applicable;
  5. Usefulness – how you can apply the knowledge to your research and the topic in general;
  6. Limitations – explain the aspects where you lack the information;
  7. Conclusions – your resume about the source in general;

3 Types of Annotations

There are three approaches to creating annotations for bibliographies. The choice of the plan depends on your preferences or your professor’s instructions. Anyway, you need to master all the below methods to create an annotated bibliography:

  • Descriptive – here you only sum up the contents of the sources;
  • Evaluative – here you add comments and personal critique of the source;
  • Combination – this method demands that you apply both the approaches. It is the most useful type of annotation. 

The aspects that you should take into consideration for the informative annotation are: 

  • Summary of this source; 
  • The main arguments and evidence;
  • The methods that the author used to collect and analyze the information;
  • The conclusion for the data from the source. 

Note that you should not judge the information and the author’s theories. 

The aspects of the evaluative annotation are: 

  • Which are the strong and weak points of the source;
  • What you can say about the author’s objectiveness and knowledge; 
  • How useful was that information for your work;
  • How other scientists might appeal to that work.

What Should Be Included in an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotation may consist of many elements. But you need to consider the size of the block. It should not be larger than 200 words, so, you might be unable to include all the elements. But with the concise wording, you can make a very informative annotated bibliography. 

There are some mandatory elements:

  • The bibliographic citation;
  • The summary of the text. 

The rest of the data are optional. You use them if they fit into your annotation:

  • The author’s background; 
  • The target audience;
  • The methods of researches;
  • The arguments and evidence provided in the source;
  • The author’s conclusions;
  • The reliability of the source;
  • Any additional useful elements present in the reference;
  • The relevance of the material and how it applies to the subject of your research;
  • The informational advantages and limitations of the text;
  • Your reaction and opinion about the book.

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography Step by Step

The process of writing an annotated bibliography is rather easy, but it requires preparations. The main factor that matters is how well you understand the sources. You have to know what they are about, learn additional information, and develop your opinion. But as soon as you get this – you will only need time to do all these bibliographies. 

1. Sort your sources and choose those you used for the paper. If the assignment included the number of references in the annotated bibliography, ensure that you have that number.

2. Define the type of annotation you need – an informative, evaluative, or a combination one. After that, decide which features you will include. You may make a kind of checklist to organize your work.

  1. Sum up the contents of every source. If you plan to have an evaluative meaning in the text, add your analysis and opinion about the strength and weaknesses of the documents.
  2. Format the bibliography. For the annotation, it will concern the font size and margins. Besides, annotation blocks are separated visually with the hanging indent. We’ll describe all the formatting criteria further.
  3. Organize the list alphabetically if you don’t have different instructions.

How to Format an Annotated Bibliography?

Formatting styles make your work look neat. Besides, it is a mandatory academic regulation for all students’ works and bibliographies. 

If your teacher did not specify the format, you could choose it yourself. There are three most widely-used formats: APA, MLA, and Chicago.

  • APA format is used for the studies in the Social sciences like history, sociology, or psychology. It is also applicable to educational topics and business courses. Many colleges use this format as the default style for all the works. 

  • MLA format is used for the works in the Humanities like literature or theatre. Its scope relates to the classical book sources in large volumes.

  • Chicago/Turabian style is a close relative of the MLA format. It is applicable for the researches in history and business, as well as for the fine arts.

All these styles have similar requirements to the text: Times New Roman, size 12 pt, 1-inch margin, and double-spaced. The differences appear in the syntax of the citation string that stands for the full name of the source. 

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What Does an APA Annotated Bibliography Look Like?

The syntax of the title entry in the annotated bibliography will look as follows in APA style: 

Author’s last name, initial(-s). (Year of publishing) Title formatted according to the grammar rules. Place of publication: The publisher

e.g., Patton, M. Q. (2019) Blue marble evaluation: premises and principles. New York, NY: The Guilford Press

How to Do an MLA annotated Bibliography?

The syntax of the bibliography list citation in MLA is as follows:

Author’s last name, first name. The title (italics) with all important words capitalized. Publisher, the year of publishing 

e.g., Laverty, Christopher. Fashion in Film. Laurence King Publishing, 2016

How to Format a Chicago Style Annotated Bibliography?

This format looks almost the same as the MLA format. 

Author’s last name, first name. Title in italics, all-important words capitalized. City of publishing: The Publisher, the year of publishing.

e.g., Smith, Michael. Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2017. 

What Is an Annotated Bibliography Example?

Epstein, Edward J. (2012) The Hollywood Economist 2.0: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies.  New York: Melville House

One of the most important studies about the finances flow and the leading Hollywood players. It tells about the real sources of profit of the films and studios, and the cinemas’ revenues. The author was an investigative journalist and ran the column dedicated to the economy of Hollywood for several years. The series of articles became the bases of the book. Unfortunately, the information is slightly obsolete, as the book was published in 2012 and did not reflect the rise of streaming services like Netflix. But the parts about the movie finances contributed to this work. 

Annotated Bibliography: FAQ

Writing an annotated bibliography is a common task, and every student should be ready to do it. But in some cases, this task comes with different terminology, making you google frantically what exactly you need to do.

Let’s check the most frequent questions: 

  • What does it mean to add an annotation?

It means that you need to compose a short descriptive or/and critical summary of the source to explain what it is about and how it can be useful for the research. Then you add this text summary to the citation entry in the bibliography. 

  • What is an annotated reference? 

It is another name of the entry in the annotated bibliography – a definite source with the annotation. 

  • What is an annotation paper?

In most cases, it means the task of making an annotation for the source.

  • What is the annotated bibliography in a research paper?

It is the extended bibliography list that includes an annotation for every source entry to provide more information and the evaluation of its importance. 

  • What is an annotated summary?

It is the mandatory element of the annotation – a very brief description of the source’s contents and its most essential points.

  • What is an assessment in an annotated bibliography?

Writing an annotated bibliography is a standard assessment task in colleges. It can be a part of a more complex assignment or a stand-alone job for students.

In any case, if writing the annotated bibliography causes difficulty, or you lack time and energy to complete it – you can order this service from the WriteMyPaper4Me company. Our team is proficient in doing all tasks related to the college papers writing. Making the annotated bibliography is not an exclusion. 


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Go ahead! Order and get your paper ready for tomorrow!